This week, we launched our next-generation online assessment delivery platform, Nextera, with new features specifically designed to meet the evolving needs of the 21st century classroom. As the online platform’s product manager, I am excited to share some insights into the most important elements of an online testing platform: security and reliability.
First and foremost, we (Questar and you, our clients) care about the security of our online tests. The information collected in online K–12 assessments is highly sensitive — it includes everything from students’ personal information to their educational performance data. Moreover, it is very important that when a student fills out an online test, we transmit the data exactly as a student entered it when taking the test. Their educational futures are at stake, and delivering scores and reports in a secure and timely manner will allow educators to quickly adjust classroom instruction based on the test scores they receive — both for the whole class, and for individual students who may be falling behind — without wasting valuable class time waiting for the scores.
Anticipating complications and implementing solutions before problems ever occur are crucial elements in our development of updates for our online platform. Testing season can be stressful for you and your students, and our #1 goal is to keep headaches out of your classroom on test day. Here are a few of the most common issues seen with online testing, and Questar’s proactive safeguards:
Local network issues or internet access problems at your school: It’s no secret that the internet is not always reliable, and your students’ test responses are too important to leave to chance on your local network. For this reason, during testing Questar stores student data in real time on whatever device they are using for the test. If there is an internet failure, the student simply continues testing offline without interruption — and their answers will automatically upload to our system whenever internet access is restored. As an added safeguard, we also deploy a local caching proxy server to minimize concerns with internet connectivity during testing.
High volumes of students, all testing at the same time: Many of the testing issues seen this year in the media involved large groups of students testing concurrently — and then ultimately crashing the testing systems, which were not prepared for such high volumes of students at once. Nextera is built to support three times the total maximum number of estimated users at any given time, to eliminate worries about overloading our system. We also keep a dedicated instance for each of our clients to accommodate your student group separately from each other client utilizing our platform. Finally, credible third parties regularly perform load testing on Nextera to verify we can sustain our three-times-the-maximum standard for our system capabilities.
Public cyber-attacks — for example, a Distributed Denial of Service, or DDoS: Nextera’s sophisticated distributed security architecture is designed to immediately detect and avoid various types of cyber-attacks. However, cyber-attacks cannot be avoided 100 percent of the time, so in the event of an attack on your school’s network, students can simply continue to test offline without interruption — once safe internet connectivity is restored, Nextera will automatically upload their responses to our database.
For more information on Nextera’s newly released features, check out the press release.